#MeToo Ethics: No, Complimenting Someone’s Appearance Isn’t Sexual Harrassment

(Though it can be.)

The Economist surveyed five different countries, asking respondents what kind of  conduct they viewed as sexual harassment.

Some examples (such as requesting a sexual favor) were obviously inappropriate, and were classified as such across all countries. Asked if a compliment on a woman’s appearance  could be classified as sexual harassment,  U.S. were a different matter. roughly a third of those under 30 in the U.S. answered, “Yes.”

Here’s the survey….

Thus we see how #MeToo propaganda has succeeded in convincing a large proportion of Americans that the simple act of engaging in the long-standing, traditional  social balm of being nice should be avoided and even punished. For them, an innocent compliment must be regarded with suspicion. Since whether an arguable sexually inspired comment  makes the recipient “uncomfortable” and is therefore “unwelcome” is the necessary predicate to a sexual harassment complaint and law suit. Continue reading

Monday Evening Ethics Feature, 10/28/2019: Boo! Lyric Woking! Name-Calling! And Much, Much Worse…

Good evening.

1. World Series ethics observations:

  • It was little noticed, but Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole did something admirable and unusual last night on the way to dominating Washington Nationals hitters and leading his team to a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. At one point in the game, Nationals first-baseman Ryan Zimmerman laid off a tantalizing pitch just off the plate with two strikes on him. Cole could be seen saluting the batter and saying “Good take!” It is rare to see a baseball player acknowledge an adversary’s skill on the field.

I wouldn’t mind seeing such gestures more often.

  • The President not only attended the game last night, but stayed unusually long for a dignitary, who usually go to baseball games to be seen more than to watch. Trump stayed until the 8th inning, when much of the discouraged Nats fandom was streaming to the exits. I wrote last week that I hoped he would subject himself to the fans’ ugliness, and they responded as we knew they would, loudly jeering and chanting “Lock him up!” It was a black eye for Washington, D.C., not President Trump.

Continue reading

Is The DLA Piper Sexual Harassment Case The Legal Community’s Harvey Weinstein Scandal That I’ve Been Predicting? Sure Looks like It…

For almost two years, I’ve been telling my ethics training attendees at bar associations and law firms that their profession has a serious sexual harassment problem, that there are many Harvey Weinstein, Esq,s out there, and the arrival of a major big law firm scandal or ten is inevitable.

Earlier this month, I wrote about the emerging sexual harassment controversy at DLA Piper,  the largest law firm in the world. Vanina Guerrero, a junior partner at  Piper, alleged that Louis Lehot, a notable “rainmaking” partner of long-standing who  pursued her,  groped her, and then retaliated when she rejected his advances. I wrote in part,

The kind of harassment she alleges is not the kind of behavior that is a secret, whether it occurs in a law firm in Hollywood, on a morning news show, on a TV production set or in an opera company, just to name some familiar locales. She says that the partner who recruited her had groped or kissed her on four occasions, and through her attorney’s supplemental filing with the EEOC, that the partner “regularly throws temper tantrums in and out of the office,” and no one at the law firm has reined him in.

There is now more information regarding this story. None of it proves that Lehot was a sexual harasser taking advantage of his power in the law firm to intimidate and abuse women for his own enjoyment, or that DLA Piper’s management  enabled him by applying the King’s Pass, concomitantly creating a toxic culture at the firm, so everything still has to be followed by the magic qualifier, “alleged.” Still, the signs are ominous: Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 10/15/2019: Farrow, James, Biden, And Another Diploma Bites The Dust…[CORRECTED]

Great.

Now there’s a tidal wave of too many ethics stories and issues to cover…

…and more than ever, I feel that an impeachment information and analysis website is essential, a civic  obligation, and likley to foce me to live out of a cardboard box. I also need to get Mrs. Q’s featured column launched. Naturally, I leave on another ethics seminar road trip today.

If the Red Sox were in the post-season, I’d have to shoot myself…

1. The up-side of the NBA’s cowardly pandering to China and its suppression of basic human rights…we learned what a shallow hypocrite LeBron James is. Of course, many of us knew this when James did his grandstanding champion of social justice act and  extolled Colin Kaepernick’s useless and incoherent protest.  “I stand with anyone who believes in change,” the B-ball superstar said, as if that means something.  It was still enough to attract excessive praise from the sports media. Last week, however, as the Los Angeles Lakers  returned home from a week-long tour of China, James said,

“Yes, we do have freedom of speech.  But at times, there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others, when you only think about yourself. I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke.”

Morey, the Houston Rockets GM who tweeted support for the Hong Kong protesters resisting China’s iron boot, only lacked education on how venal and without principles his league was, including stars like James. Morey was “thinking of others”: he was thinking of the people of Hong Kong desperately trying to hold on to as much liberty as they can. No, he wasn’t thinking about James’s giant paycheck, which is clearly all LeBron cares about.

He can take solace in a victory in the NBA’s “It’s not the worst thing” sweepstakes. San Farncisco Warriors coach Steve Kerr, when asked if he’d ever been confronted about human rights abuses on earlier trips to China, Kerr replied, “No. Nor has (America’s) record of human rights abuses come up either… People in China didn’t ask me about, you know, people owning AR-15s and mowing each other down in a mall.”

That’s right, Steve, there is obvious moral equivalency between China’s 30-65 million mass murders and its current oppressive government, and the United States of America. Continue reading

Never Mind, Ms. Guerrero: Hillary Clinton Says You Should Just “Get Over It”

Vanina Guerrero, a junior partner at mega-law firm DLA Piper, has alleged that a rainmaking partner who recruited her to the firm pursued and groped her, and then retaliated when she rejected his advances.

“I experienced such horrific conduct at the hands of a senior male partner and deserve to openly litigate my claims,” she wrote in a letter. The problem is that she is bound by her agreement with the firm to submit the dispute to binding arbitration.

A “rainmaker,” eh? That rang a bell…YES! Here’s a post, “Tales Of The King’s Pass: The Rainmakers,” I wrote last year about the typical attitudes on major law firms when protecting female staff against sexually abusive partners who make a lot of money for the other lawyers. I wrote in part, in revulsion over an ABA Journal article about how a sensible firm with a harassing but lucrative partner had to “balance’ considerations…

[T]he consultant begins quoting another ethics-lite law firm consultant. Apparently they are all like this. He says that…

“…most firms tolerate rainmakers’ abusive behavior unless it threatens something essential in the firm’s culture. Peters says firms must draw a line when the “fabric of the firm” is at risk. “The firm must win. No one, not even a rainmaker, can be allowed to destroy the fabric of the firm.”

That’s the standard? Destroying the firm? I think what this Authentic Frontier Gibberish means is that when a rainmaker does so much internal damage to the organization that even all the money he or she brings in won’t make up for it, that abusive rainmaker has to go. Talk about a low bar! “We’ll let you get away with just about anything since you make us so much money, but just don’t destroy the firm.”

It sound like DLA Piper’s management read the ABA Journal’s “How to justify keeping harassers around when they make you a lot of money” guide. Guerrero says she reported the situation to Sang Kim, one of the leaders of DLA’s Northern California offices. He said that it sounded like a he-said, she-said situation, and she should “talk it out” with four senior partners, including the partner she accused. That’s a common dodge. Continue reading

Friday Ethics “Kung Fu” Reflections, 9/13/2019: “Seek Not To Know The Answers, But To Understand The Questions.”

Welcome, Ethics Grasshoppers!

Come to think of it, grasshoppers are not particularly ethical. Does anyone even recognize references to “Kung Fu” and Master Po any more?  It had a Caucasian actor (David Carradine) playing an Asian hero, so I guess it’s considered racist now.

Never mind.

I need a drink…

1. One more note about last night’s debate...I was listening to NPR’s efforts to spin the debate this morning. A Democratic consultant, who hardly could have been surprised by the question, was asked “Who won?” He paused, stammered and said, unconvincingly, “The Democratic Party?”  Exactly! As conservative wag Stephen Kruiser wrote today,

They don’t want you armed and able to protect yourself.

They don’t want you taking care of your children.

They don’t want you making your own decisions about your healthcare.

They want you to pay more in taxes for the privilege of losing your freedoms.

What’s not to like?

2.  The new book “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement” reveals more details about the efforts by lawyers David Boies and Lisa Bloom (the victims advocate and daughter of Gloria Allred) to protect Harvey Weinstein from having his predations on women revealed. In one memorable memo the book shows to the world, Lisa Bloom wrote to Weinstein in December 2016 laying out a multistep playbook on how to intimidate accusers or represent them as liars. Regarding actress Rose McGowan, who claims to have been raped by Weinstein and who has since become a visible activist regarding his conduct and that of other Hollywood figures, Bloom wrote,

“I feel equipped to help you against the Roses of the world, because I have represented so many of them….We can place an article re her becoming increasingly unglued, so that when someone Googles her this is what pops up and she’s discredited.”

Not surprisingly, McGowan is furious, and said of Bloom, “Her email is staggering. Staggering! …This woman should never work again. Lisa Bloom should be disbarred. So should David Boies.” Continue reading

Sexual Harassment, Cancellation Culture, Anonymous Accusers, And Placido Domingo

A report last week revealed that nine women accuse towering opera figure Placido Domingo of sexual harassment.  None of the accusations have been investiaged or substantiated, and only one of them isn’t anonymous. Yet two American institutions, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the San Francisco Opera, immediately canceled their upcoming concerts with him, giving the now-familiar “safe environments” explanation. None of. Domingo’s many upcoming scheduled performances in Europe were canceled, however, as sponsors took what the New York Times calls  “a wait-and-see approach,” or what used to be known in this country as “Let’s not punish someone based on unsubstantiated  accusations alone.” Or fairness. Due process. The Golden Rule.

There are countervailing factors pulling every which way. As I understand it, #MeToo  and “Time’s Up” insists that female accusers must be believed, unless the accused is the black, Democratic Party’s Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, or the harassment is caught on camera repeatedly, as in the case of the Democratic Party front-runner for President. In the arts, these allegations have had mixed effect. Conductor James Levine has not performed in public since he was fired by the Metropolitan Opera last year after accusations of sexually abusive and harassing conduct were substantiated in an investigation, but when Pixar chief and creative muse John Lasseter was fired for being a serial hugger (rather like that Democratic Party front-runner) he was rapidly snapped up by a rival studio that gave him as much power and more money. Go figure.

There is the anonymous factor: it is my long held position that an anonymous accusation relating to the workplace should be regarded as no accusation at all, meaning that there has been one allegation of sexual harassment against Domingo. An accused individual cannot address claims when he doesn’t know their source or facts. I have been the target of false anonymous accusations—not of harassment—in my career, and as a manager in various businesses and associations, I told staff that unless they were willing to go on the record with an accusation of wrongdoing, I didn’t want to hear it. It is too easy to destroy careers and reputations with false accusations with no accountability attached.

The other issue is the multiple accusation factor. In sexual abuse and harassment, there are no one-time offenders unless there has been a massive miscommunication. The typical scenario is that a single accusation triggers several, often many, more with near identical facts. This is why I did not believe Anita Hill and Dr. Blasey-Ford, and why I did believe Bill Cosby’s many accusers.

Timing is also important. Ancient accusations of sexual misconduct—I would say anything more than five years old is dubious—arriving after memories have faded, evidence has vanished and seemingly timed to do maximum damage to the accused should be treated with skepticism and a presumption of  bad will, especially when the accused is a public figure.

And yet… Continue reading